Director of the Armenian Institute for International Affairs and Security Issues Stepan Safaryan in an interview with ArmInfo records the interim results of the "velvet revolution". He talks about possible scenarios for resolving the internal political crisis in Armenia. Assesses the policy of the new leadership of Armenia in the Artsakh settlement, shares the vision of the latest internal political transformations in Artsakh.
What interim results and future directions and goals of the "velvet revolution" can we fix today?
May 8, the day of Nikol Pashinyan's appointment as Prime ministeri, is the definite result of the "velvet revolution" in Armenia -, after which the government was formed with the consent of the parliamentary majority in the person of the RPA and its program was approved. It is clear that the main goal of Pashinyan today is to institutionalize the achievements of the "velvet revolution" by holding early parliamentary elections, since it is clear that it is impossible to lead the country from the street for a long time.
In this connection, the question arises as following: will we be able to overcome the second watershed in the form of the consent of the parliament to hold early elections without any major upheavals? Especially in conditions when after May 8 the RPA is gradually emerging from the shock state, expresses its own position and even stands in the oppositionist position. In this regard, the desire of the Republicans to try to play for a while with the aim of waiting for the wear and tear of the resource of public confidence and lowering the level of public assistance to the government is already visible. At the same time, Republicans will do their best to keep the majority in parliament, and, of course, the parliament itself with the aim of making it possible for the authorities to return to their own hands as easily as possible.
And what, apart from public support, does Pashinyan oppose to this today?
The choice of certain targets made by Nikol Pashinyan in the process of establishing law, fighting corruption, etc. is obvious. Also, the political effect of the fight against these targets is obvious. Republicans were told that either early elections would be organized without them, or in agreement with them. After the attempts of the RPA oligarchic wing to sabotage the activity of the new government through "a riot of supermarkets," Pashinyan made it clear that either the RPA will cease to be a parliamentary majority or cooperate. The last statement of Republican Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov sheds light on the next resolution of the next situation. He said that the main part of the Republicans will vote "against" the government's program, the highlight of which is holding early elections. However, while he announced the readiness of the Republicans to do everything to approve the same program. In other words, the RPA tries to avoid the threat of the dissolution of the parliament, while fully aware of Pashinyan's ability to deprive them of their faction in this parliament altogether. Unfortunately, at one time the RPA was involved in the ranks and crime, and the oligarchy, whose involvement in the criminal liability envisaged for certain acts, can not and will not be considered as political persecution in any way. No one will reproach Pashinyan for the destruction of crime or pressure on the oligarchy to return to the tax field. Accordingly, refusing to give formal consent to the holding of extraordinary elections during the year, informally, the Republicans are ready to support the activities of Pashinyan's government in exchange for his refusal to finally disrupt their party.
And will this satisfy Pashinyan?
I do not think so, since refusing to support the program of his government, the Republicans thereby refuse to hold early elections. On the other hand, this same program, judging by everything, the parliament will finally be approved in the end. Thus, this program, one way or another, will become a legitimate document leading the country to an early election. And then we see the emergence of a very interesting and delicate situation in which the further actions of the Republicans will depend on the further sentiments in our society.
The logic of the Republicans is understandable. Pashinyan's logic is incomprehensible in this case. What prevents him today from pressing harder and finally breaking up the RPA, thus opening a direct path to the early elections?
It seems to me that political agreements with the same RPA. We must understand that after April 22 the processes flowed into the mainstream of political agreements, the end of which is not so desirable. In the end, on May 8, an agreement was reached to renounce violence by all. Accordingly, the violation of Pashinyan's own promises at the time of X, the actions towards the collapse of the RPA, will mean reaching a field of political uncertainty, on which he will have no guarantees of success.
Do you see external factors on this field of political uncertainty?
So far, I see complete absence from outside of opponents of the change of power in Armenia. However, I also see quite pronounced interest in influencing the final outcome of events in our country. And here the most obvious is the Russian factor. It seems that Nikol Pashinyan and his government are still not considered the main team in Moscow. Of course, this does not mean that there will not be considered its main team in the future. Everything will depend on the actions and steps of Pashinyan himself. However, it seems that in Moscow, nevertheless, they wanted to see the development of a slightly different scenario in Armenia after April 23, in which Karen Karapetyan would have been assigned the main role. In particular, in Moscow, I think, Serzh Sargsyan would be very much wanted to see Karen Karapetyan, but they also put up with Nikol Pashinyan. The development scenario did not pass, because Russia's actions against Nikol Pashinyan and the protesters in his support would automatically lead to an increase in anti-Russian sentiment. Therefore, in Moscow, we tried, if possible, to stabilize the crisis situation, to understand and determine our next steps. In the event that Pashinyan remains unconcerned and strengthened, Moscow may try to find and strengthen the most trusted player in Armenia.
It should not be ruled out. However, they can become any participant of the revolutionary team, the same Gagik Tsarukyan. However, if the Russians do not succeed, or they consider the implementation of such a scenario inexpedient, Moscow will try to smooth out those corners of Pashinyan's policy that they do not like. Especially considering the current dependence of all Armenian players on the Russian factor to one degree or another. In any case, it seems to me that at the moment there is no final concept of the Russian scenario for Armenia.
Judging by Pashinyan's statements on the Artsakh issue, the new Armenian prime minister is trying to conduct a new negotiation line in this direction. How realistic is it and will it not be the next, the same angle that Moscow is trying to straighten out?
I consider this line to be very correct. And the statements about the necessity of Artsakh participation in the negotiation process were welcomed even when Serzh Sargsyan did them. From the point of view of the settlement of the problem, this approach seems to be correct. Another question is how much it was possible to Serzh Sargsyan and how successful Nikol Pashinyan will be. However, the trilateral negotiation format is quite realistic, since it already had a place to be until 1998, Azerbaijan wanted it or did not want it. And Stepanakert's voice was quite legitimate and weighty in all discussions and negotiations until 1998, which is fixed in all the basic documents of the OSCE Minsk Group. In this light, I appreciate Nikol Pashinyan's aspiration to return Artsakh to the negotiating table as quite realistic. And if Serzh Sargsyan lacked internal legitimacy to achieve this goal, then Nikol Pashinyan has this legitimacy. Accordingly, the new Armenian prime minister may well follow this path to a victorious end. Of course, in the conditions of adapting all the players to the marshiness existing in the course of years, the vagaries of Baku, this path will not be easy, however, it can not be abandoned in any case. In this light, I consider it necessary for Armenia to draw a clear line - only meetings in a trilateral format can be considered as negotiations. All the rest is preparatory work for the talks or simply conversations.
Does the promotion of Azerbaijani armed forces in the neutral territory in Nakhchivan have political implication. In other words, can this be considered a demarche in response to the statements of the new leadership of Armenia?
In my opinion, this is a part of Azerbaijan's strategy. Baku chose in 2016 exactly the option of local war at Artsakh level Azerbaijan is clearly not from a good life. They understood perfectly well that in the event of a large-scale war, Nakhchivan will automatically and immediately be involved in it as soon as Armenia is involved in it. Nakhijevan is the Achilles heel of Azerbaijan, both in military and political terms. Nakhchivan creates prerequisites for both participation and non-participation in the alleged war of other actors. For example, Turkey's participation in possible battles involving its protectorate of Nakhchivan will immediately lead to Russia's interference. In such a situation, Artsakh and his problem will go to the second and even to the third plan, giving way to another Russian-Turkish war. Therefore, in my opinion, we are talking only about strengthening the defensive positions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces, and today they are under almost 100% control of the Armenian Armed Forces. In other words, Baku is trying to strengthen its control over the Armenian territory while trying to solve propaganda tasks.
The praticular resignation of the leadership of Artsakh - the continuation of the processes in Armenia or in Artsakh, the situation unfolds exclusively within the internal agenda?
In Artsakh, of course, there may be a number of rather specific factors, but, first of all, recent events seem to me to be waves of revolution in Armenia. For all the independence of our political systems, however, the logic of their development has a close relationship. Therefore, the desire of the Artsakh people not to stay away from the successes of compatriots in Armenia is clear to me personally and does not raise questions. The people of Artsakh also want to stop the growing authoritarianism, arbitrariness and all that was stopped by compatriots in Armenia. In other words, all this happens in Artsakh on the basis of objectively existing discontent with the authorities. At the same time, I do not rule out the appearance of beneficiaries from outside, who are trying to use "Artsakh velvet" for a certain transformation of the status quo from 1994. It is possible that the recent events in Artsakh are part of a large geopolitical plan. In both cases, there is at least one conflict of interests - the opposition of the updated Madrid principles, a very conditional, unfinished plan for Lavrov. Plus, there is a third option - not doing exactly anything and maintaining the existing status quo. And all these three options have come across the past decades and continue to face today.
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